“We won’t solve the problem of our fiscal imbalance overnight, in the midst of a lame duck session of Congress. And we certainly won’t solve it by simply raising tax rates or taking a plunge off the fiscal cliff,” he said. “What we can do is avert the cliff in a manner that serves as a downpayment on — and a catalyst for — major solutions, enacted in 2013, that begin to solve the problem.”
Obama is proposing about $1.5 trillion in new tax revenue over a decade, largely by raising rates to 39.6 percent for wealthy Americans and eliminating tax deductions and loopholes.
On MSNBC before election results were in Tuesday night, the president said he would interpret a win as “a mandate for doing it in a balanced way. We can do some more cuts. We can look at how we deal with the health-care costs in particular under Medicare and Medicaid in a serious way. But we are also going to need some revenue.”
Exit polling Tuesday showed that more than half of Americans believe the economy is poor or worsening, and the nation remains sharply divided on whether government should do more or is already doing too much.
Well more than half of those polled said they trust Obama in a crisis. But the president’s support came from an America very much split by geography, race, religion and sex, according to exit poll data.
Obama won the Northeast and West Coast, while Romney took the South and much of the nation’s midsection. Obama won large majorities among black, Hispanic, Asian and multiracial voters; Romney easily carried the white vote. Obama’s haul among Hispanics — a key and expanding demographic -- was overwhelming: About seven in every 10 voters sided with the president after Romney repeatedly promised to adopt policies that would get illegal immigrants to “self-deport.”
Romney won among Protestants; the president found majorities among Catholics, Jews and members of other faiths. Men sided more with Romney; women solidly favored Obama.
After billions of dollars in campaign spending, more than a year of fiery rhetoric and four years of stubbornly high unemployment, the balance of power in Washington remained largely intact, raising the spectre of an immediate return to budget gridlock.
Obama, 51, scored his decisive electoral college victory by stringing together narrow wins in hotly contested states. The president won at least five of this year’s seven major battleground states; Romney beat him in North Carolina, and Florida remains too close to call. But Obama’s popular vote win was slim, reflecting a nation that remains deeply divided.
The president acknowledged and even embraced that division in a victory speech at 1:40 a.m. Eastern time.
“I know that political campaigns can sometimes seem small, even silly,” he said, before making the counterargument that passions and controversy can be a good thing. “These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty.”
Obama then reached out to Romney, saying he would seek to consult with his challenger, and to Republicans, asking them to work with him to reduce the deficit, reform the tax code and fix the nation’s immigration system.
“We can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests,” Obama told ecstatic supporters in the cavernous McCormick Place Lakeside Center in Chicago. “We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states.
“We are and forever will be the United States of America.”
Zachary A. Goldfarb and Marc Fisher contributed to this report.